There are many simple activities that districts or units can run to encourage new families to join, but nothing beats a friend asking a friend to go camping—if you are a Cub Scout that means Jeremiah Johnson Cub Scout Day Camp. Boy Scouts can take their friends to one of six Camps and Varsity Scouts/Venturers can choose from High Adventure Programs throughout the council. Every one of these summer events will lure in new members and studies show, if they go to camp in the first six weeks after joining, they will stay active in your unit.
Through extensive research, the BSA has determined peer to peer recruitment (youth speaking to youth) is the most effective way to enroll members into a Cub Scout Pack, Boy Scout troop, Varsity Scout team or Venturing crew. For Cub Scouts, this is often also parent-to-parent.
Mark R. Francis, Director of LDS–BSA Relationships, writes: “… in 1913, one reason the general leaders of the young men first recommended that the Church participate with the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) was because of ‘the missionary work of our boys associating with their fellows.’1 The spirit of brotherhood and inviting others to join with our Scout troops continues today as young men of other faiths who agree to abide by Church standards [are] welcomed warmly and encouraged to participate in youth activities.”2
LDS Young Men general president David L. Beck calls this work “real growth through Scouting. When young men of other faiths join Church-sponsored Scout troops, two things happen:
1) Latter-day Saint Scouts have an opportunity to share the gospel through their testimonies and actions and prepare for their full-time missions by inviting others ‘to come unto Christ’ (D&C 20:59), which is one of your Aaronic Priesthood duties; and (2) Scouts of other faiths then have an opportunity to participate in Scouting activities under the direction of priesthood leadership.”
As an example, Gary Faletti from Arlington TX told me about his own experience having to go it alone as a Scout, without any parental support. When his son become of age, he wanted wanted to join Scouting, but the closest unit was an LDS ward (they are not LDS). After visiting with the Bishop, Gary asked to serve on the committee and his son started a six year climb toward Eagle. Last March. Gary proudly showed me a picture of the Eagle plaque with his son’s name on it in the LDS ward house where the troop met, neither he nor his son joined the LDS Church, but his son got Scouting’s highest rank and Gary got to support his son in Scouting through a church sponsored troop.
Nearly every unit in our Council could reach out to at least one boy who is not currently in Scouts. To begin, you should plan with your Unit Membership Chair who can work with your sponsoring organization to make plans to get pass along cards and other promotional materials ready. Then help rally the whole organization around inviting others to join with you in Scouting, in ways like this:
- Encourage your Scouts to talk about your Scouting activities with their friends, classmates, and neighbors.
- When working on particular merit badge or outdoor adventure skill, ask your youth to share their excitement with their friends to see they might be interested in learning about that topic with your group.
- Help plan quality activities so that other youth will want to attend. Have a calendar of upcoming activities to share.
- Invite other young men to attend unit meetings, activities, and courts of honor with you.
- Look for ways to expand your Scouting activities to include others.
- Use Scouting as a tool to involve less-active young men in your area who may not be interested in attending Sunday meetings.
Author: Darryl Alder | Director of Support Services, Utah National Parks Council, BSA